MAN sees potential in truck platooning after German pilot project

Trucks platooning on German motorways is safe, technically reliable and easily applicable in the routine of a logistics company, according to the results of major research project with truck platoons in real logistics operations.

In the project, drivers drove two electronically linked vehicles at a distance of 15-21 metres on Autobahn 9 between the Nuremberg and Munich branches of logistics company DB Schenker for seven months, covering some 35,000 test kilometres.

The platooning system installed in the MAN trucks operated smoothly 98% of the time. Active interventions by the driver were necessary only once every 2,000km, which was much less than expected. In addition, the project demonstrated a 3-4% reduction in fuel consumption.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure contributed funding of about €1.86 million to the research project. The project partners included DB Schenker, MAN Truck & Bus and the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences.

“We were able to show that platooning has the potential to contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,” said Joachim Drees, chairman of the Management Board of MAN Truck & Bus SE. “First and foremost, we are pleased that the system works reliably and can increase safety on the motorway. Accordingly, platooning is an important step for us on the way to automation.”

Alexander Doll, member of the Management Board for Finance, Freight Transport and Logistics at Deutsche Bahn AG said: “We have analysed our European transport network and it is safe to say that around 40% of the kilometres travelled could be carried out in platoons.”

However, further tests and ensuring the regulatory framework would be necessary for this.

Drivers also favoured the platooning system, despite being skeptical of it before being involved in the project, according to an analysis of the psychosocial and neurophysiological effects on the drivers by scientists from the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences.

“A general sense of safety and trust in the technology is echoed in the drivers’ assessment of specific driving situations. None of these were described as uncontrollable,” said Professor Sabine Hammer from the Institute for the Science of Complex Systems at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences.

The drivers experienced vehicles of other road users cutting in from adjacent lanes or cutting across multiple lanes as “disagreeable”, but not critical. “Due to the fast response times of the system, drivers would now prefer a distance of 10-15 meters,” said Hammer.

Professor Christian Haas, director of the Institute for the Science of Complex Systems, added: “The EEG measurements show no systematic differences between platoon runs and normal runs when it comes to the neurophysiological stress placed on drivers, i.e. in terms of concentration or fatigue.”

However, for international use, the scientists recommend further research with longer periods in platooning mode.

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Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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